What the healthcare reform numbers now tell us

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James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
James M. Berklan, McKnight's Editor
It's really true: There are lies, damn lies and … Congressional Budget Office estimates.

That's probably being muttered by more than a few political hard-liners on both sides of the aisle in Washington these days. That's because the CBO has come out with revised cost figures in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

It's safe to assume nobody is going to have his or her mind changed after reading the latest CBO numbers. Ideally, the non-partisan CBO would settle fights, not add fuel to both sides' positions. Yet, that's precisely what could be happening.

In a nutshell, the CBO found that when the Supreme Court ruled that individual states could delay (or ignore) expansion of their Medicaid rolls, as the Obama plan dictates, it actually lowered the projected cost of “Obamacare.”

However, the CBO also issued figures that said repealing the healthcare reform law now would add far less to the budget deficit than previously forecast.

In both cases, a loss becomes a win?

House Republicans voted last week to repeal the healthcare reform legislation for at least the 32nd time. (I might have missed a few votes when I was mowing the lawn, someone told me.) Repeal efforts, though powerful and voluminous, are currently a dead-end. But it's a fire the GOP keeps burning, just in case Republicans take control of Congress and the White House in November. It's a far-sighted strategy.

In the meantime, expect more rancor. Political heavyweights are going to toss around plenty of big numbers, many from the CBO.

Don't be surprised if sometime during this political season you come across a new commercial from the Democrats: “See, the Supreme Court ruling leads to Affordable Care Act costs that are $84 billion less than previously thought!”

Close on the heels could come this Republican spot: “The Supreme Court, while wrong-headed in its approval of the individual insurance mandate, also showed that states can't be kowtowed into ballooning their Medicaid spending. And now repeal would never be cheaper!”

Oh, and that most recent projected tab for the president's healthcare reform package? It's down to only $1.168 trillion — or $1,168,000,000,000 if you're not using shorthand.

Numbers like that are enough to make a person long for simpler days, like those along the Mississippi River with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.